Emily Smith, Editor in Chief
University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley plans to recommend the consolidation of Armstrong State University and Georgia Southern University for consideration at the Board of Regents’ Jan. 11 meeting. Armstrong students held a protest outside the Student Union Jan. 9 in opposition.
If approved, the two new institutions will be named Georgia Southern University and will be led by President Jaimie Hebert. In an email to the student body Armstrong President Linda Bleicken explained that the consolidation would better serve students – namely those in health professions and military.
“The recommended consolidation will combine the best of both institutions,” Bleicken said. “As many of you know, Armstrong and Georgia Southern are just an hour apart and ultimately serve many of the same students coming from the coastal Georgia region who are seeking higher education.”
Following the announcement, Armstrong students flocked to social media expressing their concerns and even created a petition against the consolidation which now has over 600 signatures.
Protesters’ main concerns included unclear communication from officials, jeopardized athletic programs, cost of attendance, increase in traffic and overall community alterations.
“This has come as a very shocking and disappointing revelation to many of us at Armstrong, especially as this was thrust upon us so suddenly without student opinions being taken into consideration,” senior English major Alyssa Schiffman said. “I, and many others, can’t help but feel that everything the Armstrong community has built would be invalidated being swallowed by a larger school to whom we are simply not related.”
Student athletes expressed concerns about seeking other teams if the merger is approved.“It puts everyone in an awkward position because we came here to play soccer but that’s not an option anymore,” freshman soccer player Michelle Watson said. “We were ranked twenty first in the nation and Coach Eric built up a strong team here. It sucks we only get to play for one semester.”
Freshman nursing student Taylor Fanning was accepted to both Armstrong and GSU – ultimately choosing to be a pirate.
“I like this environment better because everyone has a relationship with each other. You’re not absorbed by how huge the campus is. You know your professors and you know the other students,” Fanning said.
Senior psychology major and writing center tutor Victoria DiNatale expressed her concerns regarding class size fluctuation. “I feel that this is a political move that will benefit GSU but will cause negative ramifications for students here at Armstrong,” DiNatale said. “One thing that I love about Armstrong is that we have small class sizes. I’m afraid that once you add more students here on campus that those research and one-on-one opportunities will be a thing of the past. ” A larger student body will ultimately affect the small community outside of the school. “I’m concerned about the traffic in Georgetown, it’s highly congested as is,” she added.
In a University System of Georgia news release, Chancellor Wrigley explained that consolidating the two schools will create one institution with expanded regional presence, tailored degree programs for the coastal region and will significantly enhance the University System’s economic impact for the area.
“This merge between GSU and ASU would only be a slap in the face to those who pay tuition, study for hours on end, and live in Savannah just to be a Pirate,” junior Meaghan Gardner said. “If this merge is about money, the University System of Georgia does not care about their students.”
If the Board approves the recommendation, implementation teams with campus representatives will be formed to work out details. Campus and community listening sessions will be held in the coming months for the institutions to seek input on moving forward.